Banumbirr (Morning Star poles)

Banumbirr (Morning star poles) by Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island) artists / Works pictured from both the Elcho Island Artists and Bandigan Morning Star / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / QAGOMA Photography / © The Artists

Ceremonies celebrating banumbirr (the morning star) are performed annually in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. This unique collection of poles was made by artists from Galiwin'ku (Elcho Island), a small island off the northern shores of Arnhem Land. Both men and women contribute to making the lengths of feathered strings and pul pul (bunches of feathers) attached to them. The tufts on the tips of some poles represent the bright star (Venus). Though made for public viewing, these poles are still held sacred by their makers.

It is told that each day at sunset spirits on Burralku, an island to the east, hold a morning star ceremony. As

dancing intensifies the rising dust creates the twilight which gradually becomes darkness. During the day and into the night the star is hidden by an old woman in a special feathered bag; just before dawn she releases the star on a long string. First it ascends to the top of a tall pandanus tree to survey all the places it will visit, then flies over Arnhem Land heralding the dawn, pausing over each of the clans related to it. As the sun rises the old woman reels in banumbirr by its feathered string to be hidden again until the next evening.

Artists include:

Raymond Bulambula

Henry Gambika Nupurra Dhamarandji

Frank Djekula

Richard Galngadiwuy

Richard Gandhuwuy Garrawurra

David Lakarriny Gurruwiwi

Gali Gurruwiwi

Henry Dhalnganda Gurruwiwi

Paul Gurruwiwi

Richard Dhaymutha Gurruwiwi

Trevor Gurruwiwi

Wilson Lanydjurra Gunbirrtja

Ian Wuruwul

Terry Dhurritjini Yumbulul

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